It has long been recognized that collaborative efforts for fire and hazardous materials response benefits both industry and the community. However, other areas, potentially fruitful areas of cooperation have not been generally recognized or exploited. This paper describes an effort to use a common industry practice, the Table Top Exercise, as a means for improving security procedures in public and private schools.
This process was developed to address a need to minimize the consequences of terrorism in schools that was identified after the tragic incident at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado. A team comprised of local school representatives, police, fire, emergency medical services (EMS) and industry were assembled to create and implement "Active Shooter" Table Top Exercises for all City schools in Kingsport, Tennessee. The primary customer for these exercises was the school system but a synergy developed early into the process for these groups to become an interactive team. This paper will describe a "How To" approach which includes the selection of the team, creation of a master scenario, conducting an Orientation Seminar, adapting scenario to each school, conducting the Table Top Exercise, critique, summary of lessons learned, policies, practices, and procedures updates, follow-up training for remaining staff, and auditing protocol.
The first step is the selection of the exercise design team. Representatives from each of the four participating groups are selected along with a facilitator/controller who can be from any of the groups or in this situation the person was from industry. The group meets to review the process protocol. The existing policies, practices, and procedures are reviewed for each of the participating groups. Exercise objectives are then selected from these documents and a master scenario is created which fulfills the scope of the exercise.
An Orientation Seminar is then prepared that will be presented to all participating groups at the same time. This seminar will familiarize the groups with the exercise objectives that have been selected for each group for the Table Top Exercise. The protocol for the Table Top Exercise will be explained and each group will have the opportunity to ask any questions that they may have. The groups are then given from two weeks to two months to review the exercise objectives and make any changes to their existing policies, practices, and procedures before the exercise. Changes should be communicated to the individual groups well in advance of the Table Top Exercise. The Orientation Seminar is used so that each group will have an opportunity to understand the scope and expectations for the Table Top Exercise and to ensure that each group has had time to prepare for the exercise.